Walmart To Hire 55,000 Holiday Workers

Views Of Shoppers And Products During A Wal-Mart Store Grand Opening
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Walmart has announced a slight increase in the number of seasonal workers it plans to hire this year, as the retail sector at large is expected to see a drop-off from last year. The Bentonville, Ark.-behemoth said on Monday it will hire 55,000 seasonal workers for the 2013 holiday season, 5,000 more than it took on last year. Retailers in general, however, are expected to hire in the range of 700,000 temporary workers for the Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 holiday season, according to the Chicago-based employment consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's roughly a 7 percent drop-off from last year's holiday hiring.

Walmart watch
As the country's largest private employer, Walmart's hiring plans are always closely monitored. But Walmart was also attracting attention for its announcement Monday that it plans to transition 35,000 part-time workers to full-time status while bumping up another 35,000 part-time workers to temporary status, as Bloomberg news reported.

And according to Bloomberg, the decisions are being made just as customer frustration mounts over unstocked shelves throughout Walmart stores. The complaint shouldn't come as a total surprise -- in the past five years, the national Walmart workforce has dropped by about 120,000 employees as 500 new stores have been added, according to Bloomberg. And so as David Galper, head of retail banking for KeyBanc Capital Markets, told the news agency, "They want to have sufficient employees to get the right product to the right shelf at the right time."

Walmart, for its part, denied the claim that it wasn't providing enough manpower to keep customers satisfied. "Our in stock levels are up significantly in the last few years," Walmart spokewoman told Bloomberg in a separate report. And so the stocking claim is "inaccurate," she said.

Response to protests?
The staffing up comes just as Walmart is being targeted anew by labor activists. Earlier this month, the non-union group OUR Walmart organized protests attended by thousands of activists and workers in 15 cities. The demonstrators were calling for a minimum salary of $25,000 a year for all Walmart workers, among other requests. The day of action marked the largest protest against Walmart since last year's Black Friday walkout, when Walmart workers staged protests at roughly 1,000 stores nationwide.

But in speaking to AOL Jobs earlier this month, Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said the company has not been particularly moved by the activism. "The protests have never actually been able to get more than a 100 associates at a protest, in spite of what organizers say," he said. "This is a union campaign made up of union members and activists."

Retail trends
Other retailers also announced their seasonal hiring plans this week. And the biggest names of the retail sector also revealed plans that were flat at best:
  1. Target expects to hire 70,000 holiday workers for its stores this year, down from 88,000 in 2012. The reduction was a result of the company's "increased efficiencies," as USA Today reported.
  2. Kohl's said it plans to hire more than 50,000 seasonal workers throughout its 1,150 nationwide stores. The plan is to decrease in the number of seasonal workers per store, while increasing in the amount of jobs at distribution centers, as CNBC reported.

Last year's holiday season saw a total of 751,800 seasonal workers, which was a 12-year high, according to USA Today. It was also the fourth year in a row that seasonal hiring rose.

The expectation that this year will see a new trend is being chalked up to an inability to get over the hump of the financial crisis. "Consumers remain uneasy, which is evidenced by wide monthly mood swings in confidence surveys," according to the Challenger firm.

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